By Cam Fortems
A 24-year-old man who killed his girlfriend with a chunk of concrete nearly four years ago will serve at least 12 years in jail before he is eligible for parole.
Damien Taylor was convicted in October of last year of second-degree murder in connection to the Dec. 5, 2012, death of CJ Fowler. The 16-year-old girl was pregnant at the time her body was found in Guerin Creek near downtown Kamloops.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Dev Dley said the “sheer brutality and savagery of the attack” on Fowler calls for protection of the public from Taylor as well as denunciation of his crime.
Taylor will serve at least 12 years in jail before he is eligible for parole in what is a life sentence.
“It was an unprovoked and unexpected attack. Mr. Taylor attempted to destroy evidence to lead investigators to other suspects,” Dley said.
Crown prosecutor Alexandra Janse argued for a sentence in the upper range of 13 to 15 years, arguing Fowler was only 16 years old, pregnant and vulnerable.
The pair travelled from Terrace in early December that year to take and sell drugs in Kamloops. They binged on crystal meth for most of the period, though Dley ruled they were both coming down from a high before Fowler walked into Royal Inland Hospital on Dec. 4, complaining of crystal-meth symptoms.
In the Crown submission, Janse said after Fowler was informed by doctors that she was pregnant — hours before she was murdered — “she wanted to move home, get clean and start fresh for her baby.”
In a victim-impact statement, Fowler’s mother, Matilda, called CJ a “loving and caring person” whose death shattered the family.
“I was in denial about CJ’s death. I kept waiting for her calls and texts . . . My heart broke when CJ died,” she said.
Despite the loss, Matilda said she is now “at peace” with the loss and has forgiven Taylor.
In his statement before sentencing, Taylor turned to Matilda and read a tearful apology.
Calling crystal meth “a monster in our community,” defence lawyer Don Campbell said Fowler would not have died but for the drug use by the pair. He argued for a sentence of 10 to 12 years before parole.
“Crystal meth is not a drug that can be ignored. It’s incredibly dangerous. It took away everything from Mr. Taylor,” Campbell said. “It deprived CJ Fowler of her life.”
Taylor tried to commit suicide after he was arrested and was under a suicide watch for a significant period. He was arrested in early 2014 and has been in jail since.
“In a real sense, Mr. Taylor lost the love of his life, the only thing of real value, the best thing that ever happened to him,” Campbell said.
An expert in the trial testified Taylor has limited intellectual ability.
While Campbell emphasized the loss of Fowler to Taylor, Janse told the sentencing judge there is an irony in that approach.
“It shouldn’t be a mitigating factor that you miss someone you killed,” she said.
The case by the Crown was circumstantial, based on evidence that included video of the pair appearing to argue while leaving RIH and Taylor fleeing Kamloops back to northern B.C. without CJ. He changed clothes in the hours after leaving the hospital and entering the Notre Dame Drive Greyhound depot — something the Crown said pointed to his guilt.
Fowler’s blood was identified on his socks, later found by RCMP.
While a motive was never proffered, the Crown’s theory is that Taylor attacked his girlfriend while they were in a nature area of Guerin Creek.
A forensic pathologist testified Fowler choked on her own tongue after being crushed by a piece of concrete — concrete the Crown said was wielded by Taylor. Fowler had no defensive wounds.
Taylor testified he awoke to find his girlfriend dead and fled in a panic.
Cam Fortems is a reporter with Kamloops This Week